November 21, 2019

    Improving the microbiome might be a way to treat autism symptoms. Image: Shireen Dooling
    Fecal transplantation reduces symptoms of autism by 50% after two years - health short science news

    While it becomes increasingly known that the microbiome (the bacteria population living in the gut) is important for neurological health and proper neuronal communication, new research has further confirmed the importance of a healthy gut microbiome in autism.

    Eighteen autistic children who had received a fecal transplantation two years earlier showed a much-improved microbiome, and strongly diminished (50% reduction) symptoms of autism (language, social interaction and behavior).

    These results indicate that fecal transplantation is safe, and its beneficial effects in autistic children should be confirmed in a larger study.

    Read the full story: Arizona State University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Poverty has a powerful impact on our genes
    Poverty impacts our genes too - interesting science news

    Several lines of previous research have shown that socioeconomic status (SES) influences both human health and disease. Now researchers have shown that poverty is associated with changes in DNA methylation which is an epigenetic marker that influences gene expression across 1500 genes.

    This shows that individual experiences over the course of lifetime get embodied in the genes and can literally influence the function of these genes. This indicates that poverty has long lasting impact on a host of physiological systems and processes.

    Further research needs to be done to ascertain whether these epigenetic changes have an impact on immune responses to infections, neurological development and overall health of a person.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Physical Anthropology

    Destressing in nature works
    Go take a walk in the forest to reduce stress - interesting science news

    In this recently published study, participants were asked to take a stroll in nature for 10 minutes or more for at least 3 times per week. The levels of cortisol as measured saliva samples both before and after the nature exposure was also done to study its impact.

    Even taking a 20-minute break in nature will significantly reduce your stress hormones. Researchers have for the first time found the most effective dose of urban nature experience.

    These ‘nature pills’ could be a low-cost solution to negate the health effects of increased urbanization and indoor lifestyles which is linked to several disease conditions.

    Read the full story: Frontiers (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Psychology

    Unhealthy diet accounts for more deaths than previously thought
    20% of death linked to poor diet - interesting science news

    The Global Burden of Disease study tracked 15 dietary factors between 1990-2017 of 195 countries and estimated that 1 in 5 deaths that occur globally are linked to poor diet or diets which contribute to chronic diseases. That’s an astonishing 11 million deaths.

    Of the 11 million deaths, a staggering 10 million were due to cardiovascular diseases, 913,000 due to cancer and 339,000 associated with type 2 diabetes. Also, these 11 million deaths is an increase from the 8 million deaths linked to diet in 1990.

    Further, the study found that in 2017, more deaths were associated with low amounts of food like whole grains, fruits and nuts as compared to deaths due to high levels of trans fats, sugary drinks and red meat.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: The Lancet
    Scientific publication: The Lancet

    Smog awaits these ships making port in Shanghai
    Worldwide survey: almost 5 million premature deaths because of air pollution - health short science news

    In 2017, close to 5 million people died as a consequence of air pollution, according to today’s (April 3, 2019) State of Global Air report 2019.

    Most deaths, 2.9 million, occurred because of exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2,5), and 1.6 million people died from air pollution due to cooking with contaminating fuels. Ozone was the cause of another 0.5 million premature deaths.

    Breathing in polluted air increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases, respiration diseases, infections of the lungs, and cancer. Air pollution is the fifth most important cause of premature deaths worldwide, topping e.g. alcohol, malnutrition, drugs, or traffic accidents. Air pollution reduces the average life expectancy of newborns by 20 months.

    Read the full story: Health Effects Institute and Institute of Health Metrics

    Night shift increases the risk of poorer health
    Diabetes and heart risk increased due to shift work - interesting science news

    Atleast 20% of the population works in night shifts, especially in the healthcare and transportation sector. This is a major healthcare problem which isn’t getting its due attention for several years now.

    Now, researchers have found out that shift work negatively impacts the way triglycerides are metabolized in the body as well as the way sugars are used. The study compared those who regularly did night shifts and those who didn’t and found that the former had higher levels of blood sugar and triglyceride levels.

    This study shows the long term impact of shift work and its impact on hart disease, diabetes and obesity in the future.

    Read the full story: The Physiological Society (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Experimental Physiology

    Soda consumption was reduced immediately after a soda tax had been elected in Berkeley, months before the tax was actually introduced
    The soda debate: reduced consumption following tax election - health short science news

    Soda sales in Berkeley (USA) dropped immediately after the soda tax bill was passed in November 2014. This drop, equaling between 10 and 20 percent, occurred months before the tax was introduced and soda prices went up.

    A new study shows that the election of soda tax, and the vigorous campaigning around the tax that led up to the vote, also may have played a major role in changing drinking habits.

    Thus, to change habits, prices matter, but information is also important, at least in the soda debate.

    Read the full story: UC Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Economic Inquiry

    The gut microbiome is a determining factor in the fight of the immune system against cancer
    Gut bacteria direct the immune system to attack cancer - health short science news

    In line with many recent studies showing that the gut microbiome is important for immune activation to fight cancer, a new publication describes a molecular link between gut bacteria and the immune system.

    The study identified eleven bacteria species that support immunotherapy against melanoma by controlling the so-called « unfolded protein response » (UPR), a cellular signaling pathway that maintain protein health. Melanoma patients who are responsive to immunotherapy show reduced UPR.

    These results might help more people benefit from immunotherapy in the future, scientists say.

    Read the full story: Sanford Burnham Prebys
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    The atomic structure of the SOS protein, a cell messaging molecule that uses a unique timing mechanism to regulate activation of a critical immune system pathway. Image: Steven Alvarez/Berkeley Lab
    Breakthrough in immunology: how T cell signaling prevents autoimmune reactions - health short science news

    Scientists have succeeded for the first time to image the process by which an individual immune system molecule is activated in response to a signal from the environment, such as the presence of a virus.

    This imaging has led to the discovery that one of the signaling molecules of T cells, known as SOS, has a built-in timing device to regulate activation of pathways of the immune system.

    Activation of SOS depends on the assembly with other proteins, and takes between 10 and 30 seconds. When assembly doesn’t happen during this time window, SOS is not activated and no immune response will follow. This is likely to be important to prevent autoimmune reactions.

    Read the full story: Doe/Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Science

    Same bacteria, but other effect on human health because of structural variation in the bacteria's genome
    Genetic instability of the microbiome makes the difference for our health - health short science news

    The same microbiome might act differently in different people due to instable bacterial genomes, a new study shows.

    Unlike our own genetic material, the DNA of bacteria is not fixed, but changes over time due to losses, or acquirement of new bits of DNA from other microorganisms. This has now been shown to be at the basis of sugar metabolism in the gut, which might be efficient in some, but less so in others, so that people with similar life styles and the same bacteria species in the gut have different weights.

    This new sort of analysis of the microbiome makes it possible to pinpoint the mechanisms underlying the presence of certain bacteria in the gut and human pathology, including cancer and diabetes.

    Read the full story: Weizmann Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms can predict death with high accuracy
    Scarily true… AI can predict death - interesting science news

    Medical doctors and healthcare data scientists have trained a machine learning algorithm to predict death in middle aged individuals to predict the risk of death due to chronic diseases. This could help in developing strategies to improve preventive healthcare in the future.

    Scientists used the data of half a million middle aged people from the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010 and followed up until 2016. The algorithm used risk prediction models that consider different parameters like demographics, biometric, lifestyle and clinical factors as well as diet.

    This could also help develop tools for personalized medicine and individualizing therapy for risk management using these models.

    Read the full story: University of Nottingham
    Scientific publication: PLOS one

    Treatment of diabetes is now limited to insulin injections, but might be replaced by restoration of beta cells by stem cell therapy in the future
    Improved stem cell therapy to prolong the life and functionality of beta cells - health short science news

    As restoration of the amount of beta cells, the ones producing insulin, in the pancreas is often met by attacks from the immune system, researchers have sought to find a stem cell therapy that would prevent activation of the immune system and turn the stem cells into viable and functional insulin-producing cells.

    Now, scientists have made use of the immune-repellent chemokine (a messenger of the immune system that reduces immune system activation) CXCL12 in the capsule gel in which stem cells are delivered into the body. In diabetic mice, the addition of CXCL12 to the capsule restored glucose metabolism and protected the stem cells and newly-formed beta cells against the body’s immune response.

    This study brings the restoration of beta cells seen in diabetics an important step closer.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts General Hospital
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Transplantation

    Night shifts might increase the risk of miscarriage
    Night work linked to higher miscarriage? - interesting science news

    Latest research indicates that night shift work negatively affects pregnancy. Those pregnant women who work two or more-night shifts in a week have 32% more chance of miscarriage the following week.

    The risk was higher also if the night shifts were for consecutive nights. This association was strongest for pregnancies after 8 weeks. Researchers used the data obtained from 22,744 pregnant women in Denmark working in public sector services especially hospitals. This included the data of over 377,896 pregnancy weeks.

    The possible mechanism could be disrupted circadian rhythm and thereby reduced melatonin release since melatonin is necessary for proper placental function and successful pregnancy.

    Read the full story: BMJ (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Occupational and Environmental Medicine

    An efficient alternative for MEdicare for all could be possible
    Alternative for Medicare for all? - interesting science news

    USA is one of the few industrialized nations that do not have Medicare-for-all policy and due to strong opposition to this policy, it is unlikely that it would be enacted in the foreseeable future.

    However, researchers propose that there could be a viable alternative for the same. Researchers have indicated that for wider access to healthcare, individuals at an age less than 65 years should be given an option to buy-in for Medicare till they become eligible for Medicare.

    This voluntary program would allow individuals to retain their private insurances. This would also not mandate increased government expenditure and might have higher chances of being accepted by the American population.

    Read the full story: Elsevier (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: The American Journal of Medicine

    High fructose in Colas could contribute to intestinal tumors
    Sugary beverages linked to intestinal tumors - interesting science news

    The next time you pick up that Cola, just remember this study. Scientists have shown that mice who daily consumed a high-fructose syrup which is equivalent to a 12 ounce of sugary beverage showed an accelerated growth of intestinal tumors. This effect was independent of the obesity associated with drinking these beverages.

    The findings of this research also show that daily consumption of these sugary beverages can shorten the time required to develop these cancers which usually takes 20-30 years in humans to reach an aggressive stage.

    The scientists also found that fructose in these fluids was first converted in the body for efficient conversion to fatty acids which then contributed to tumor growth. This shows that colorectal cancer cells use this fructose as a fuel to increase tumor growth. But, this also gives a new direction for treatment since fructose isn’t necessary for normal cell survival like glucose and hence therapy specifically targeting fructose metabolism could be explored.

    Read the full story: Baylor College of Medicine
    Scientific publication: Science

    Oxidative stress activates neurons that promote sleep
    Brain process involved in aging also promotes sleep - health short science news

    Oxidative stress, a condition in which cells cannot cope properly with reactive oxygen species, is known to be a cause of biological aging. Now, scientists have found that oxidative stress is also at the basis of sleep, at least in fruit flies.

    Sleeplessness causes oxidative stress, and this drives a chemical conversion of a small molecule, NADPH. NADPH then opens a channel, so that electrical current can pass into the neurons that promote sleep to activate them.

    Researchers say that this newly discovered mechanism could lead to the development of a new generation of sleeping pills.

    Read the full story: University of Oxford
    Scientific publication: Nature

    The resistance of pancreatic cancer to pharmacological treatment may be overcome by combinational drug therapy
    Drug combination treatment of pancreatic cancer tested successfully in mice - health short science news

    Researchers have identified a potential drug combination treatment to combat pancreas cancer, the third mostly deadly form of cancer.

    One drug intervenes with lysosomes, so that essential nutrients cannot be recycled anymore. The other drug blocks the pathway to repair DNA. Together, they have synergistic effects, meaning that their effect when combined together is bigger than the sum of their individual actions.

    The combined drug therapy has now successfully been tested in mice, and there is hope that this may lead to an effective strategy for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, known to be very resistant to single drugs.

    Read the full story: UCLA
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Bacteria living in the gut change with aging, and are at the basis of reduced cardiovascular health in the elderly
    Surprising culprit for worsened cardiovascular health in the elderly: the gut microbiome - health short science news

    With increasing age, blood vessels stiffen and degrade, leading to increased risk of cardiovascular disease in the elderly. Scientists have found a surprising culprit for this: changes in the gut microbiome.

    Studies in mice have revealed that aging comes with more “bad” bacteria that appear to at the basis of increased inflammation, stiffening arteries, and decreased health of the vascular endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels). When applying antibiotics in old mice to eliminate most of the bacteria living in the gut, vascular health improved to the cardiovascular condition seen in young mice.

    Researchers believe that diets high in probiotic-rich cultured food (yogurt, kefir, kimchi) and prebiotic fiber could play a role in preventing heart disease by promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

    Read the full story: University of Colorado – Boulder
    Scientific publication: Journal of Physiology

    Spaceflights suppress our immunity an reactivates viruses in our body
    Spaceflight reactivates sleeping viruses in our body - interesting science news

    This could be a hurdle to consider before we think of space exploration and settling on Mars. A NASA research has shown that Herpes virus reactivated in more than 50% of crew aboard Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

    The research states that during spaceflights there is a rapid rise in stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which suppresses the immune system. These conditions persist for longer durations which contribute to reactivation of the viruses.

    However, so far, the reactivation of the virus is mostly non-symptomatic. However continuous shedding of the virus from these astronauts continued for more than 30 days after returning to earth which could hamper immunocompromised individuals they come in contact with on earth.

    Read the full story: Frontiers (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Microbiology

    Those sugary drinks are killing us
    Quit that Cola now. Sugary drinks linked to early death - interesting science news

    A long-term study based in the US has shown that higher amount of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed is associated with higher risk of premature death especially from cardiovascular diseases and also to a small extent cancer.

    The sugar-sweetened beverages such as carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks are the single largest source of added sugars consumed in the US. They alone exceed the daily recommended sugar consumption by atleast 10%.

    Compared to drinking less than 1 sugary drink per month, drinking 1-4 per month increased risk of death by 1%, 2-6 per week increased this risk by 6%, 1-2 per day increased it by 14% and 2 or more per day increases it by 21%. That’s a high risk to avoid if we kick the habit of drinking Cola’s, don’t you think?

    Read the full story: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
    Scientific publication: Circulation

    Viruses (AAV) are injected directly into the vitreous of the eye (top) to deliver a gene coding for a light-sensitive receptor, which will be epxressed in ganglion cells to make them sensitive to light. Image: John Flannery, UC Berkeley
    Making blind mice see again with a single gene injection - health short science news

    Researchers have developed a relatively simple method that restored vision in blind mice suffering from retinal degeneration. The mice were able to see motion, brightness changes over a thousandfold range and detail on an iPad that was sufficient to distinguish letters.

    The technique consists of injection an inactivated virus that carries a gene for a light-sensitive receptor, the green cone opsin. This is targeted to the retinal ganglion cells, and makes them light-senstive.

    The researchers expect to start clinical trials on humans with retinal degeneration in as little as three years.

    Read the full story: University of California – Berkely
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    The high cholesterol of egg is killing us
    Egg lovers beware - interesting science news

    Researchers are crushing our omelette. A new study indicates that adults who eat more eggs and other dietary cholesterol had a significantly higher risk of death due to any cause. ANY CAUSE. That’s not good.

    However, the real message is not about eggs but about cholesterol, which is more in eggs especially in egg yolk. This also indicates that the current recommended dietary standards for egg need to be revisited.

    This study had a median follow-up period of 17.5 years and during which approximately 6000 deaths occurred in the study population. The startling fact was that exercise, overall diet quality or the type of fat did not change the association between high dietary cholesterol and death risk.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: JAMA

    Afternoon sleeping is so good for decreasing your blood pressure
    Afternoon siesta keeps high blood pressure away - interesting science news

    When you are suffering from high-blood pressure your doctor tells you to decrease your salt and alcohol intake, both which you don’t want to do. Your doctor also puts you on certain blood pressure lowering pills. All these measures reduce your blood pressure by 5-7 mm Hg on an average.

    Its now understood that taking an afternoon nap also decreases your blood pressure by the same magnitude and this is something you would willingly do, wont you? Its also shown that patients ended up needing fewer antihypertension drugs to maintain their blood pressure.

    This finding is extremely important since even a drop in blood pressure by 2 mm Hg reduces the risk of heart attacks by as much as 10%. Off you go to sleep?

    Read the full story: American College of Cardiology

    Second HIV postive patient treated with stem cell potentially cured
    Prolonged HIV remission in a second patient achieved - interesting science news

    After the ‘Berlin patient’ 10 years ago, another patient treated with stem cells from donors who have genetic mutation that prevents expression of an HIV receptor CCR5 has shown sustained HIV remission even after stopping treatment. This patient is named as the ‘London patient’.

    The patient was first diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and has been on anti-retroviral therapy since 2012. However, he developed Hodgkin's Lymphoma and hence received a haematopoietic stem cell transplant from a donor with two copies of the CCR5Δ32 allele in 2016.

    The CCR5 receptor is important for the HIV to enter the host cells and mutation in these receptors prevents it from doing so thereby preventing the infection of host cells. Knocking out the CCR5 receptor in patients with HIV could be one way to use gene therapy in treating HIV.

    Read the full story: University College of London
    Scientific publication: Nature

    A close up view of the skin bioprinter nozzle- Photo credit: WFIRM photo
    Printing skin directly on wounds - interesting science news

    Researchers have developed a mobile bio-printer, which can allow bi-layered skin to be printed directly into the wound. The system can scan the wound to measure its dimensions accurately and then directly deposit the skin onto the wound, providing direct on-site management.

    While the current gold-standard is to use skin grafts its major limitation is the limited region from which it can be harvested and the skin could be rejected too.

    For this new system the fibroblasts and keratinocytes, which can be easily isolated from the skin and expanded, are mixed in a hydrogel and placed in the bioprinter. These cells are then deposited in directly in the wound so that new skin can grow outwards from the centre of the wound.

    Read the full story: Wake Forest school of Medicine
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

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